Monday, 18 January 2010

The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carré


DATE READ: January 2010

NOTES: This book follows Tinker, Tailor Soldier Spy. George Smiley is in charge of a demoralised secret service. Karla from Moscow Central sent Bill Haydon as a mole and caused serious damage to the British organisation. The main area of activity is now the Far East – Smiley is convinced that Karla has something serious going on and sends The Honourable Gerald Westerby to Hong Kong to work ostensibly as a newspaper reporter but at the same time to find out what Chinese businessman Drake Ho is up to.

Le Carré lets the plot unfold in its own time and gives us insights into the workings of the organisation, the difficult relations with the Americans and the general air of unease and betrayal that hangs over everyone. When he describes interrogations he gives these time to develop and may write pages of questions and answers before the interrogator gradually gets hold of the information desired. A lesser writer would probable feel the needed to speed up the process for fear of the reader losing interest.

Westerby, a romantic and somewhat naïve hero, moves from Hong Kong to Thailand to Cambodia and to Laos – always using his wits and charm to bluff his way into the confidence of others. Along the way he falls in love……which could be his undoing.

As you would expect the plotting is complex and there are many characters introduced but it is an excellent read about a hard and cynical world.

Friday, 8 January 2010

The Brass Verdict by Michael Connolly


DATE READ: January 2010

NOTES: The Brass Verdict heralds the return of Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer, as he takes up the caseload of a murdered attorney, Jerry Vincent. He takes over the imminent case of a film producer (Walter Elliot) accused of murdering his wife and her lover. There is lots of evidence against him but Haller is perturbed by the casual and unworried attitude shown by the defendant. Haller is convinced that Elliot has some sort of “get out of jail free” card up his sleeve and sets about investigating this.

Harry Bosch is part of the police investigation into Jerry Vincent’s death and he passes some information about what may be going on to Mickey. Mickey soon realises that some serious jury manipulation is going on and that his own life is in danger.

This book is typical Michael Connolly – a fast paced plot, some good characterisation, believable police work and credible court drama. I do feel it dragged a little at times – some of the court scenes could well have been shortened. However it is a good fun read.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym


DATE READ: January 2010

NOTES: Barbara Pym is one of the undiscovered treasures of fiction. She writes with a gentleness and wry humour (usually) about the lives of women who are not the most beautiful or talented or desirable. But nonetheless these women have charms of their own – especially in their observation of the behaviour and dalliances of others.

Mildred is an unmarried woman in her thirties who thinks that the chances of marriage are slipping away from her. Things are not helped by the fact that all the men in her life are such clots! There are some nice observations of the male “helpers” at the church jumble sale who leave all the work to the women but are first in line for tea and cakes…. She is also puzzled by the fact that the married women she comes across are physically attractive but hopeless at most everyday skills.

Excellent Women was published in 1952 and very much reflects Britain of the time – such as the need to share a bathroom with fellow tenants.

Barbara Pym became rather unfashionable in the 1960s but it is good to see all her books reissued.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Resolution failed - and it is only first week of new year!

Yes, I know one of my New Year reading resolutions was to only buy one book for every three read from my shelves...... But I noticed that Barry Unsworth's latest Land of Marvels was out in paperback and so was A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book. Both are on my wish list and before I knew it I had bought them both. But the resolution still stands!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

DATE PUBLISHED: 2009 DATE READ: January 2010 NOTES: Good to begin off the New Year with a really good book! I heard Black Water Rising reviewed on Radio 5 and was eager to read it. I was not disappointed. Set in Houston, Texas in 1981 it tells of struggling lawyer Jay Porter as he grapples with problems – both personal and professional – in a USA that is still coming to terms with the Civil Rights struggle. Attica Locke creates a wonderful picture of the steamy city which is beset by political corruption, union strife and corporate greed. She makes it very clear to the reader that although many of the demands of black citizens had been met by 1981 there still remained covert racism and many black people still felt they had to be careful in their actions and mistrustful of those in authority. It is a complex and gripping story. All the characters are well portrayed – from the ambitious manipulative white mayor to Jay’s heavily pregnant, highly principled and somewhat neglected wife. If you like James Lee Burke, Walter Mosley, the TV series The Wire or the film Chinatown then you will love this book. TITLE:

My Reading Resolutions for 2010

Well, the pile of "to be read" books doesn't seem to have got any smaller...or any tidier! First of all, did I succeed in any of my resolutions for last year? I think I bought fewer books but I daren't check this on my Amazon account. I said I would finish the Frederica Quartet by A.S. Byatt - which I did (and enjoyed very much). I also listed four books I vowed to read: A Prayer for Owen Meany - read it! loved it! The Golden Notebook - read it! loathed it! I didn't read Sacred Games - was put off by the 950 pages and I started to read The Master and Margarita but decided to put it forward as a book for our Reading Group and would read it then. So for 2010 my resolutions are: READ THREE BOOKS FROM MY SHELVES FOR EVERY NEW BOOK I BUY!!! Tackle Robert Bolano's 2666. This is massive but I must take up the challenge. It was originally written as five books to be published separately so I will take it on one book at a time. Also to be read: Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carre